J.J. Abrams revealed on Monday night that Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a new cosmic party jam for a Mos Eisley Cantina-like scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It’s now trending among fans as the #Force4Ham sequence, but exactly what kind of scene will be utilizing Miranda’s composition? Here’s your answer … and it’s weirder than you might have guessed.
(Head’s up: There are no plot spoilers ahead, but we are going to talk about the behind-the-scenes creation of the sequence.)
The scene takes place on the planet of Takodana, where the alien pirate Maz Kanata (played via motion-capture by Lupita Nyong’o) maintains a kind of tavern. Abrams calls it a “watering hole” that she has operated for various scofflaws and smugglers for nearly a century.
It’s packed with alien creatures, much like the cantina from the original Star Wars, and not only does it fuse the creator of Hamilton with the galactic saga — Abrams says it reminded him of another pop culture touchstone.
“I remember when we were shooting a sequence at Maz Kanata’s castle with all these creatures that were sort of moving to the music that’s playing in the scene,” he says. “Despite the collaboration that George [Lucas] had with Frank Oz, I’d never really felt that Venn diagram before between Star Wars and the Muppets.”
Oz, it should go without saying for most people, was a longtime collaborator of Jim Henson’s, and he was famous not only for performing Miss Piggy, but also Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
As Abrams watched his puppet menagerie groove to a beat that would eventually be filled by Miranda’s music, he felt two things: joy and caution.
“You’ve got to be careful, because you can go too cute, you can get too silly,” he says. “But when you watch Star Wars and you look at the creatures and you look at what Jim Henson was doing at the same time, there was a sophistication to the Muppets, and an art form that allowed for character creation that George really embraced, in many ways literally, when he worked with Frank on Yoda.”
So Abrams stood back and watched. Trying to keep it real, but feeling mesmerized by this juncture of Broadway, Star Wars, and the art of puppetry.
“That moment of seeing these creatures, all being performed by puppeteers, having a kind of quiet moment, just kind of, you know, moving to the music and swaying… there was a moment of just sweet, childlike, throwback humor, and oddly, humanity, in these creatures that were, while anthropomorphized, clearly inhuman,” he says. “And moments like that that are just reminders of what’s possible in the world of Star Wars.”
Watch Abrams discuss Miranda’s contribution to The Force Awakens below.